2015 has turned out to be one hell of a year for film all around but particularly in the realm of women in the industry. Although this shouldn’t come as a surprise, anywhere they have been given a chance, women have blown the proverbial roof off the place this year in all aspects of filmmaking. A lot of badass chicks did some really cool stuff in movies in 2015. Not only did women write, direct, and star in some of the best films that were made this year, they also made significant waves in the constant battle toward gender equality, with movements such as Jennifer Lawrence’s essay on the pay gap between male and female actors in Hollywood. Women take greater strides in the film industry each year, and 2015 is no different. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights, shall we?

 Behind the Scenes

Sony Pictures Classics

Sony Pictures Classics

The Director: Marielle Heller – The Diary of a Teenage Girl

The Diary of a Teenage Girl was a breakout hit at the Sundance Film Festival, and it remains one of the most criminally underseen films of 2015. Marielle Heller both wrote and directed this razor sharp, witty, unapologetic coming of age film about a young girl and her exploration of sexuality. Heller crafted a story about a teenager who is, well, to put it quite simply, extremely horny. But the best part of this film is that it’s so much more complex than that. Minnie, above all else, wants to know love. Love of self, love from her mother, love in the romantic sense, and, like most teenagers, she tries to grasp her own understand of what the word actually means. The dialogue features some of the most intelligent, thought-provoking writing in a film this year, and not to mention the fact that The Diary of a Teenage Girl is visually uniquely stunning, featuring a delightful mix of retro and vintage artwork that swirls across the screen sporadically. Heller created something really special here, and it deserves to be seen by the masses.

Room

A24 Films

The Writer: Emma Donahue – Room

Emma Donahue both wrote the source material and adapted her story for the screen in Room, a story about a young boy and his mother who are freed after spending years in captivity living in a tiny shed. The novel is inspired by real events, and Donahue pens a poignant picture that is both heartbreaking and inspiring, narrated by a five-year-old boy who is exploring the vastness of the world for the first time. Although small portions of the film are still narrated by Jack, he was the voice of the entire book, and the success of this significant adjustment when adapted from page to screen provides further evidence of Donahue’s exceptional ability to tell a beautiful, emotional story with any set of tools at her disposal. Room is one of the most emotionally resonant films of the year, largely because of Donahue’s involvement and the preservation of the integrity of the novel itself.

Pitch Perfect 2

The Overachiever: Elizabeth Banks – Pitch Perfect 2

Director. Producer. Actor. Elizabeth Banks is the definition of “multi-tasker” in 2015, and her skill level in the areas of the many hats she continues to wear was showcased in 2015 with Pitch Perfect 2. Banks cranked up the volume in every aspect of this sequel, reuniting her powerhouse ensemble from the first film and adding even more female talent to the roster. Pitch Perfect 2 is bigger in virtually all aspects of the word, and Banks is in the driver’s seat. She has become a force to be reckoned with behind the screen and in front of it, her filmmaking abilities seemingly without limits.

On the Screen

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The Breakout Star: Rey (Daisy Ridley) – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The internet began buzzing about Daisy Ridley when The Force Awakens’ casting was first revealed, and the hums became even louder once she was featured in a trailer. Audiences knew nothing of this English actress or the character she’d be portraying, and speculation ruled the blog and Twitter-sphere over who this unfamiliar face was and how important she’d be to the galaxy. Since The Force Awakens was released it has been breaking literally all of the records, and no one can stop talking about Ridley’s performance and the impact her powerful character is having on women in film. Although Carrie Fisher’s role as Princess Leia was groundbreaking and laid a massive foundation for powerful female roles in film, particularly of the action and science fiction genres that were and still are largely dominated by men, this is the first time in this franchise a woman has been not only the focal point, but the hero. Rey’s confident, triumphant characterization, portrayed by Ridley’s assured and steady performance is one of the most important casting decisions in the biggest franchise in movie history.

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

The Badass: Furiosa (Charlize Theron) – Mad Max: Fury Road

Star Wars: The Force Awakens closed out the year with a bang in the realm of the female action hero, but in the first half of 2015, another character not only blazed this trail, she left behind flames that are still burning brightly and furiously. Mad Max: Fury Road was marketed as, well, a Mad Max movie, so imagine the surprise of fans when they realized this film was less about the titular icon and more about the women he decides to help. Enter Furiosa, with her shaved head, piercing glare, and impatient intensity. She uses Mad Max as a prop to rest her gun so she can take down her enemies, never pausing for or expecting anyone else to help her along the way. Furiosa is a bonafide action star and a force of nature, and Charlize Theron owns her identity with all the ferocity and intensity she deserves, giving us a dark hero that could (and should) carry on her own franchise.

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

The Entourage: Susan, Nancy, and Rayna (Melissa McCarthy, Miranda Hart, and Rose Byrne)  – Spy

Paul Feig has become known for his ability to put together an ensemble of strong, brilliant, hilarious women and providing them with the foundation to feed off of one another, creating female-centric comedies with smart, snappy dialogue that gives viewers a sense of empowerment from seeing women be crass and rude, yet still feminine. Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Miranda Hart each hold their own while creating a dynamic between both one another and their male counterparts. Together, they maintain a balance of the belly laughs of a comedy and the mystery and action of a spy film. These three each have their own moments of one liners and physical comedy, but the spark is even bigger when all three are on screen together.

The Weinstein Company/StudioCanal

The Weinstein Company/StudioCanal

The Lovers: Carol and Therese (Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara) – Carol

Admittedly, the only film on this list I haven’t been able to watch yet, a celebration of women in film in 2015 couldn’t be complete without acknowledgment of Carol and the two characters that have brought lesbian film to the forefront of the world of cinema this year. Carol is, in fact, the only new film that has been released this year to have earned the honor of Greats status, and that is indeed something to pay attention to. Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett have both garnered a handful of award nominations already for their performances, so I can’t imagine this obviously stunning film will be anything less than a cornerstone in cinema and an experience to be marveled and remembered.

What other women in film do you think should be celebrated in 2015? Let us know below!